Progressives Winning Big in Local Elections

The left is on the rise with important local wins throughout the country, wins not achieved by placating moderates but by reaching out with bold progressive campaigns that engaged the newly energized left wing. 

Schumer Has Invited Us to Shake Up the Party–Let the Shaking Begin

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation noted in a recent Nation editorial that Senator Schumer had one thing right in his Op-Ed announcing A Better Deal. Quoting Schumer: “In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program [and] failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake.”

vanden Heuvel, went on to suggest that Schumer’s comments opened the floodgates for a much needed and entirely healthy debate not just on messaging, but on platform and campaign practices:  “The Better Deal essentially endorses the big debate about a reform agenda that has already begun inside and outside the Democratic Party. Democratic failure isn’t about Vladi­mir Putin or James B. Comey or Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats have lost the White House, both houses of Congress, and about 1,000 state legislative seats. Republicans now have total control in a record 26 states. Clearly, a major debate about the party’s agenda, strategy, and leadership is sorely needed.”

Described below, the number of progressive wins in important local elections is mounting and should provide fodder for the Democratic Party as it ponders campaign strategy, seeks candidates to run for office, and prepares messaging for the 2018 election. This post focuses on impressive progressive wins in local and state elections across the nation. In Saturday’s post, I will highlight two other articles from The Nation that describe how bold, progressive campaigns in rural America and in the South could replicate the wins in cities described below.

Resistance is Rising in the Heartland, John Nichols, The Nation–How the Democrats Can Win & Advance Progressive Policies in US Cities

It is easy to become discouraged if you are not reading about progress occurring somewhere, when all you read is about North Korea and one stupid Trump Tweet after another. But across America progressive candidates are ringing up one victory after another in local and state elections. And this is almost never covered in the media.  So, today Retake brings you good news that should inspire. Perhaps the most important win was in the deep south, in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, There Chokwe Antar Lumumba ran an unabashedly progressive campaign focused on economic and social justice. During the campaign he pronounced that his win would: “send shock waves around the world,” said the 34-year-old human-rights lawyer as he vowed to make Jackson “the most progressive city in the country.” And he won a resounding victory, claiming more than 55% of the primary vote and an astonishing 93% of the vote in the general election

From another Nation article, A Progressive Election Wave Is Sweeping the Country, by John Nichols,   “They recognize that an alternative vision can be proposed and put into practice in communities where taxes are levied, services are delivered, commitments to fight climate change are made, resolutions to establish sanctuary cities are adopted, and questions about poverty, privatization, and policing are addressed. “Our nation will only change from the grassroots up,” says Dan Cantor, national director of the Working Families Party, which backed Lumumba as well as the progressive winners of a hotly contested primary for Philadelphia district attorney, a statewide race for the top education post in Wisconsin, and a New York election that saw a Trump-backing GOP district pick a resistance-preaching union activist for an open legislative seat.”

Annie Weinberg, electoral director of Democracy for America, which has waded into dozens of down-ballot contests, said the message is clear: “In 2017, voters are ready to make cities everywhere into bastions of resistance to the Trump regime by electing bold progressive leaders who run on, and are committed to fighting for, racial and economic justice.”  In his Nation article, Nichols laments how in the past these progressive wins would be reported broadly in the media and lead to a groundswell on a national level, but in a Trump-tweet-obsessed media, these wins are receiving scant attention.

The article references progressive wins by Mayors in Jackson and Cincinnati, the District Attorney in Philadelphia won by a Black Lives Matter attorney, and State’s Attorney races in Chicago and Orange-Osceola County, and in Orlando, Florida.  Among the other winning races identified in the article:

  • Natalie Vowell won a citywide school-board seat with an intersectional campaign that focused not just on education policy but addressed the housing, employment, and criminal-justice issues that often determine whether students succeed.
  • Dylan Parker is a 28-year-old diesel mechanic and member of the Quad Cities chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. In 2016, Parker was a Sanders delegate; in early April of this year, he was elected to the City Council of Rock Island,
  • Illinois,DSA member, khalid kamau (who lowercases his name in the Yoruba tradition that emphasizes community over the individual), was elected to the City Council of South Fulton, Georgia. A Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 organizer and also a Sanders delegate, kamau campaigned on a bold economic and social-justice vision
  • April voting saw Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers win a statewide nonpartisan race after being targeted by conservative backers of the “school choice” schemes favored by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
  • Progressive Democrats running in historically Republican districts in New Hampshire and New York won breakthrough victories in May. “Republicans should absolutely be concerned: Two Republican canaries died in the coal mine yesterday,” GOP political consultant William O’Reilly said after the results were announced.
  • The New York special-election winner, elementary-school teacher and union activist Christine Pellegrino, described her victory as a “thunderbolt of resistance.” But it was also something else: Pellegrino, another 2016 Sanders delegate, wasn’t the first choice of Democratic strategists and local party leaders. She gained the nomination with the crucial help of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Pellegrino won a huge victory, claiming 58% of the vote in a district that Ballotopedia calls a “Pivot County,” which is comprised of over 700 counties nationwide that Ballotopedia sees as being crucial to restoring Democratic control of local, state and national governing bodies.

These are an impressive array of wins and should inspire progressives in the Party, while more importantly causing centrists to reflect upon what messaging will actually engage and motivate the electorate. Clearly, America is looking for a bold new direction, a message and platform that speaks to racial, economic, social, and environmental justice. Nichols concludes by noting:  “That makes every election in every community matter, because the point isn’t merely to resist one bad president; as Lumumba reminds us, it is ‘to change the order of the world.’”  To read the Nation article click here.

Here in Santa Fe, the announced candidates for Mayor and City Council are far from inspiring or bold. Retake is making inquiries among progressives throughout the City and would encourage any of you who think you would want to contribute to creating a more just Santa Fe, to let us know by writing to The City will be facing important decisions in 2018 related to renewables, public banking, affordable housing, transit and community development. Let’s make sure we have representatives whose vision may include attending to potholes, but doesn’t stop there.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Democratic Party Reform, Economic justice

Tags: ,

1 reply

  1. Encouraging post for a way forward…..thanks, Paul and Roxanne!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: